Sep 242012
 

Breakfast can get a little mundane some times.  I can only make so many egg white veggie omelettes and yogurt parfaits.  Healthy breakfasts don’t have to be boring.  This was probably the healthiest AND most exciting I’ve had in a while.  A simple and flavorful hash of butternut squash and kale topped with a fried egg and shaved parmesan.  My new favorite breakfast and/or lunch and/or dinner for fall.

The beauty of this meal is that it can be made entirely in one pan (that is if you have a cast iron skillet, which  I do not).  All you do is saute butternut squash, onions, and garlic until they’re browned and soft, add the kale for a few minutes, and finish with a fried egg, salt, pepper, and grated parmesan.  I don’t know what it was–maybe the runny yolk, maybe the sweet butternut squash, maybe the savory kale–but something magical happened when they all came together on my plate.  

Nutritional Highlights:  Butternut squash has tons of beta-carotene (veggie’s version of vitamin A), vitamin C, and even some calcium and iron.  Plus, it has less calories and carbohydrates than sweet potatoes and is comparably delicious.  Then there’s kale–what I would dare to say is the trendiest veggie of 2012. For good reason–it has absurd amounts of vitamin K, A, and C and has tons of fiber.  The egg on top, yolk and all (yeah, I did it), is the perfect protein to round out this meal.  Your body and your taste buds want you to make this now.   


Kale and Butternut Squash Hash with Fried Eggs and Parmesan
(for about 3 servings)

Ingredients:  

  • 2 cups butternut squash, chopped into 1/4 inch cubes
  • 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 cups kale, stems removed and roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 T olive oil
  • optional: 1/4 tspn red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 eggs 
  • shaved parmesan cheese
Directions:

In a cast iron skillet (or large frying pan if you’re like me and don’t have a cast iron skillet), heat the olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add the garlic, onion, and butternut squash (and red pepper flakes if using) and sautee, stirring occasionally, for about 15-20 minutes or until the squash has softened and the onion is browned.  Add the chopped kale and cook for an additional 3-5 minutes until the kale has softened slightly.  Season the mixture with salt and pepper.

For the eggs there are two options.  If you’re working in a cast iron skillet, you can turn on your broiler, crack the 3 eggs right on top of the hash and put it under the broiler until the eggs are cooked to your liking.  If you’re working in a frying pan, you can fry your eggs in another pan and place one on top of each serving of hash.  

Top the hash and eggs with shaved parmesan cheese, freshly ground pepper, and salt.  Enjoy!
Sep 172012
 

I went to the Union Square farmers market expecting to be inspired by the first signs of fall-butternut squash, figs, etc.  But instead, I saw cases and cases of local tomatoes, having their last hurrah of the summer.  So, to salute the end of summer and to make sure those tomatoes didn’t feel abandoned, I made a roasted tomato-basil soup with grilled cheese croutons.


There are plenty of recipes out there that use canned tomatoes, but I wanted to make one that used fresh plum tomatoes, roasted to give them and intense sweet flavor.  


abcd


It wasn’t even that high maintenance.  I simply laid out the halved tomatoes, onion wedges, and whole garlic cloves on a baking sheet, drizzled with olive oil, salt, and pepper and roasted them.  Then I pureed all of that, and simmered the mixture along with some red wine, balsamic vinegar, and chicken stock.  For the grilled cheese croutons, I just made some good old grilled cheese sandwiches and cut them into bit sized chunks.  Might sound simple, but there’s just something so good about tomato soup and grilled cheese.  Something that shouldn’t be messed with.


Nutritional Highlights:  This soup is incredibly healthy.  While a lot of vegetables and fruits lose nutrients when cooked, tomatoes actually have higher levels of heart-healthy and cancer-preventing phytochemicals.  The problem with tomato soup at restaurants is that they use tons of heavy cream and salt, making it incredibly high in fat and sodium.  My version was cream free (although I added a little bit of half and half to Jeff’s bowl because he insisted on a creamy soup) but I thought it was flavorful and creamy enough without it.  I made my grilled cheese with high-fiber whole wheat bread and low fat cheese.  This is a great, healthy way to use up all those summer tomatoes.  You can even freeze some for the winter!

Roasted Tomato Basil Soup

Serves 4

  • 3-4 lbs plum tomatoes
  • 1 yellow onion, large dice
  • 6 cloves of garlic, peeled (4 left whole for roasting and 2 minced for sauteeing)
  • 4 tbs olive oil, divided
  • 1/3 cup dry red wine
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 tbs balsamic vinegar
  • 6oz can tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, finely chopped (and some extra set aside for garnish)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • Optional: 1/4-1/2 cup regular or fat free half-and-half if you want it to be a little creamier

Preheat oven to 375.  Cut plum tomatoes lengthwise and cut the onion into large chunks.  Lay the tomatoes, onions, and 4 garlic cloves onto a large baking sheet lined with parchment or foil.  Drizzle with 3 tablespoons of olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper.  Roast for 50 min to 1 hour and allow to cool.

Once the roasted tomato/onion/garlic mixture has cooled a bit, transfer it to a blender and puree until smooth.  

In a medium-sized pot over medium heat, add 1 T olive oil, 2 cloves minced garlic, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper. Cook about 1-2 minutes until garlic is fragrant. 

Pour in the pureed tomato mixture and cook about 5 minutes. Then add the tomato paste, sugar, chopped basil, red wine, chicken stock and balsamic vinegar and stir to combine.  Allow the mixture to come to a boil and then reduce to low and allow it to simmer for 30 minutes to an hour.  

If you feel the soup is still not smooth enough, you can run through the blender again or use and immersion blender.  Taste and season with additional salt and pepper as needed.

For the Grilled Cheese Croutons:
  • 4 pieces whole wheat bread
  • Cheese of you choice: I mixed low fat mozzarella, low fat cheddar, and full fat asiago cheese because that’s what I had in my fridge.
  • Butter or I can’t believe it’s not butter (or olive oil spray)
Spread a very thin layer of butter or butter substitute on both sides of bread.  You could also just use olive oil spray but I’m a grilled cheese purist.  

Heat a large skillet over medium heat.  Place the bread in the pan so it can get crispy on one side.  Once brown and slightly crisp on that side, flip the bread and add the cheese to the crispy side.  Allow the cheese to melt while the other side of the bread gets cripsy.  Once cheese is melted, put the slices together to make two sandwiches.  Continue to cook, flipping as needed until the cheese is completely melted and bread is desired amount of crispness.  

Remove sandwiches from pan and allow to cool for a few minutes.  Cut the sandwiches into crouton sized pieces and serve along with the hot tomato soup.  Enjoy!  



Sep 102012
 

I’ve been wanting to try making salmon cakes for a while, and when I saw a recipe from my very favorite restaurant at Duke, Foster’s Market, I had to try it.  They turned out perfectly and both the cakes and the relish were delish, but I felt like the whole process took just a little too many ingredients, a little to expensive to make, and a little too much work, even for me!  But, they were really tasty and a great last hurrah for summer corn, so I wanted to share the recipe.


Nutritional Highlights:  Even though these were a little high maintenance, they were definitely a healthy and creative way to use one of the healthiest fishes out there–salmon.  The salmon has the omega-3 fatty acids that most of us don’t get enough of.   In addition to the salmon, both the cakes and relish have lots of healthy veggies and herbs.  While these aren’t deep fried, they’re still pan fried so that does add a bit of extra fat but it’s also how you achieve an amazing crispy crust so to me it’s worth it!  Pan fry using a healthy oil like olive or grape seed oil to make sure it’s all healthy fat.

Salmon Cakes with Crunchy Corn Relish
adapted from Foster’s Market

For the corn relish (can make ahead): 

Makes about 3 cups relish
  • Kernels from 4 ears fresh corn (2 cups fresh or frozen corn)
  • ½ red onion, diced
  • ¼ cup dry white wine
  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon peeled, julienned fresh ginger
  • 3 tablespoons fresh thyme or 1 tablespoon dried thyme
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons whole coriander seeds (coriander is a strong flavor so make sure you like them before adding)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 green bell pepper, cored, seeded, and diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and diced
  • 7 scallions, trimmed and cut into thinly sliced rounds
  • 6 fresh basil leaves, cut into very thin strips (chiffonade)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Place the corn, onion, wine, vinegar, ginger, thyme, garlic, coriander, and sugar in a medium saucepan over low heat. Stir and cook about 10 minutes, until the seasonings are incorporated. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
2. Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, combine the green bell pepper, red bell pepper, scallions, and basil in a large bowl and stir to mix.
3. Add the corn mixture to the pepper mixture and stir to mix. Season with salt and pepper. Refrigerate in an airtight container until ready to use. 

For the salmon cakes:

  • 2 pounds cooked salmon (poached or grilled)
  • 1 cup whole wheat bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup olive oil mayo or low fat mayo
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ red onion, minced
  • 3 scallions, trimmed and minced
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded and minced
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce (such as Tabasco or Texas Pete)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup olive oil for pan frying

1. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.
2. Carefully break up the salmon with a fork into large chunks in a large bowl. Add ½ cup of the bread crumbs, the mayonnaise, mustard, eggs, onion, scallions, jalapeño, basil, hot sauce, salt, and pepper and stir just until mixed. Do not overmix; the salmon pieces should be bite-sized chunks, not fine flakes.
3. Form the mixture into twelve 2½-inch cakes about 1½-inches thick. Coat both sides of the cakes lightly with the remaining bread crumbs, shaking off any excess crumbs.
4. Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a large, non-stick skillet. Cook 6 to 8 salmon cakes at a time, about 3 minutes per side, turning only once, until light golden brown. Remove from the oil and place on a paper towel to drain. Transfer the cooked, drained cakes to a baking dish and place in the oven to keep warm while the remaining cakes cook. Serve immediately with Crunchy Corn Relish.

….

See what I mean? TONS of ingredients and tons of work, so I probably won’t be in a rush to make these again.  But, Salmon cakes in general are a great idea so I’ll be in the market for a simple yet tasty recipe!

Sep 032012
 

I’ve been a little delinquent lately in terms of bringing my own food to work.  Instead of bringing my own coffee like I used to, I’ve been throwing away lots of bucks at Starbucks daily.  Instead of packing my lunch I’ve been eating out, which sacrifices both dollars and nutrition most of the times.  So, I wanted to make something on my day off that would supply me with plenty of leftovers to bring to work for filling lunches.  So, I came up with these Southwestern Stuffed Peppers, filled with ground turkey, quinoa, black beans, corn, and plenty of spices.


There are 3 main steps to making these.  Cook the grain (in this case, quinoa) saute the veggies, turkey, and spices, and then cook and fill the peppers.  Although it might take you about an hour to make these, it will provide you with tons of hearty, healthy meals.  


Nutritional Highlights:  This is one of those meals that basically has every food group covered in one little pepper so it’s a balanced and complete meal.  You can also leave out the turkey if you want them to be vegetarian, and leave off the cheese if you want to keep um vegan (although cheeseless stuffed peppers would be sad).  Using a pepper as a vehicle for all these healthy fillings isn’t just for fun…the pepper itself is a nutrient powerhouse, packed with Vitamin C, A, and antioxidants.  


Southwestern Quinoa and Turkey Stuffed Peppers
adapted from Crepes of Wrath
Ingredients
  • Meat
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium white onion, minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 lb. lean ground chicken or turkey
  • 1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes, with juice
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1 14.5 oz can of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or more if you like it hot!)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Quinoa
  • 1 cup quinoa, uncooked
  • 2 cups low sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
  • Peppers
  • 4-5 bell peppers
  • 1 1/2 cups low fat mexican blend or pepperjack cheese (or any other cheese that you prefer)
  • Salsa for serving
Instructions
  1. Start by getting the quinoa cooking.  In a saucepan, add the quinoa, broth, and spices.  Bring to a boil and then reduce to low and simmer covered for about 12 -15 minutes.  
  2. While quinoa is simmering, work on the meat. Heat the olive oil in a large pot or saute pan and saute the minced onion until softened, about 5 minutes. Add in the garlic and cook for another minute or so over medium heat. Add in the ground turkey, then the spices. Cook for 8 minutes or so over medium heat, until cooked through (don’t over cook – it will continue cooking after being removed from the pot as well as when it is added to the rice).  Add the diced tomatoes, black beans, and corn and simmer for 5 minutes.  
  3. Preheat your oven to 350.  While the meat simmers, you can prepare your bell peppers. Wash them and cut them in half.  Remove the seeds and rinse them out. Spray a baking sheet or any large pan with cooking spray, and cook peppers cut side up for 15 minutes, until just barely tender. Remove and set aside until ready to use.
  4. When the meat and quinoa are ready combine them in the large pot.  Taste and season with additional salt and pepper as needed.  Stuff the bell peppers with the chicken and quinoa mixture. Top with enough grated cheese to cover the peppers. Bake at 350 degrees F for 15 minutes or so, until the cheese is bubbling.  Serve with your favorite salsa and enjoy!